FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sunday, February 9, 2014

Contacts: Harriet Applegate, 216-534-4640 / Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184

COALITION CONDEMNS CONGRESSIONAL DECISIONS ON FOOD STAMPS AND UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
Labor-Community Group Calls for Restoration of Food Stamp Cuts and Extension of Unemployment Insurance

[Cleveland, OH] The No Cuts Coalition, a Greater Cleveland group composed of labor and community organizations and individuals, condemned Congressional action to cut $8.6 billion from the federal Food Stamp program and Congressional inaction to extend federal unemployment insurance. It calls for restoration of the latest food stamp cuts (and $5 billion cut to the program last November) as well as the passage of the extension of unemployment insurance benefits.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as Food Stamps, is part of the larger Farm Bill passed by Congress last week and signed by President Obama on Friday. Congress failed to extend unemployment insurance in late December and has been unable several times since to provide basic assistance to people who’ve lost their jobs.

SNAP meets the basic food and nutritional needs of an ever-growing number of people who are unemployed (officially and unofficially) and underemployed, now augmented by those individuals and their families who have recently lost their unemployment insurance. The food stamp program also serves seniors, children and disabled citizens.

The new food stamp cuts will harm 850,000 American households, about 1.7 million people who will lose an average of $90 per month. The average monthly household income of the 47 million people enrolled in the food assistance program is $744.  The $8.6 billion cuts to the hungry represent more than 50% of the massive farm bill’s entire savings of $17 billion over the next decade.

While the farm bill ended the $5 billion annual subsidies to farmers who currently receive cash payments whether they grow crops or not, agricultural corporations will continue to receive billions in subsidies.

Agribusiness – multi-national corporations like Archer Daniels Midland – insurance companies and corporate farmers will be major beneficiaries of expanded crop insurance subsidies. Eighteen insurance companies are currently paid $1.4 billion annually by the government to sell insurance policies to farmers. Calculations by Vincent Smith, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Montana State University found that between 2005 and 2009 for every dollar in crop insurance that went to farmers, $1.44 went to insurance corporations.

“It is only a slight exaggeration to say that this legislative grotesquerie gives to the rich and takes from the poor,” the Washington Post editorial board stated in an editorial this week, which had called on the president to veto the farm bill. The editorial referenced the stark inequity in stabilizing corporate welfare for agricultural interests while decreasing benefits for the hungry.

Agribusiness and crop insurance interests spent $95.3 million lobbying Congress and various federal agencies in 2013 – more than $261,000 per day! The ten top targeted members by agricultural corporations in the House (nine Republicans and one Democrat) received an average of $225,000 in political contributions during 2013, according to Open Secrets, which tracks donations. It’s a safe bet that food stamp recipients contributed nothing to key elected officials during the same period.

Meanwhile, 1.7 million people have had their unemployment support cut off since the program expired on December 28. This affects about 2.3 million children.  Congress has failed three times to extend the program, the latest this past week as Republicans again claimed the program adds to the deficit and deters recipients from finding work. Alternatives to pay for the program that would not raise the deficit have been offered to no avail.  As to the myth of unemployment benefits deterring recipients from working, there are currently three unemployed people for every job opening!

“While the farm bill could certainly have been worse for food stamp recipients, it could have been much better,” said Harriet Applegate of the No Cuts Coalition. “While most Republicans wanted to slash food stamps by $40 billion over $10 years and hand out even more billions to corporate interests, too many Democrats too easily accepted the onerous provisions of the final bill described above.  It is time to stop taking from the poor and giving to the rich. With more than a million people losing their unemployment insurance, there is increased demand for Food Stamps, not to mention increased pressure on food pantries and other social service providers.”

“This vote demonstrates yet again the disproportionate influence of corporate interests over human interests among our federal elected officials,” said Greg Coleridge of the No Cuts Coalition. “It also demonstrates the essential need to educate and organize to create a grassroots voice and force to counter the massive power of money and corporations to shape our laws and influence our lawmakers.”

The No Cuts Coalition is planning a “March March” in Cleveland to demand a restoration of cuts to food stamps and extending unemployment insurance. Its purpose is to create an ongoing independent, bottom-up voice to respond and resist to the growing inequality resulting from cuts to essential safety net programs.

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